Chuck and Shannon Mitchell recently welcomed the newest member to their family — a Goldendoodle named Bentley who has joined their daughter Mycayla as her service dog. After a long journey, the family is grateful to have Bentley home.
Mycayla was diagnosed with Polymicrogyria (PMG), a condition characterized by abnormal development of the brain before birth.
Her condition led to Mycayla having multiple seizures, warranting the need for a service dog to help alert her before a seizure occurs and help keep her safe to prevent falls.
The process to obtain a service dog differs from an Emotional Support Animal (ESA). Under Title II and Title III of the ADA, a service animal is defined as “any dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability.”
The extensive training can make the process very costly.
“We did a bunch of fundraisers, we found a dog trainer and raised all the money,” Chuck Mitchell said. “We had a few people that gave quite a bit to make it possible to get this funded totally. The process took nearly 19 months.”
Although the wait was lengthy, the Mitchell family knew the benefits for their daughter would make the process worth it.
“We wanted to give her a bit of independence — like any girl, she has dreams of getting married and living on her own one day,” Mitchell said.
Mycayla selected Bentley when he was just a puppy, identifying him as her future service dog. Leading up to the adoption, Bentley had to be trained to recognize Mycayla’s scent. A T-shirt containing her scent was shipped to Florida as part of the training process.
A few weeks ago, they finally got to meet.
“We flew to Steward, Florida, and spent a week training with the trainer,” Mitchell said. “When Mycayla and Bentley met for the first time, as soon as he caught her scent, he knew her.”
During their stay, Bentley visited the store with Mycayla for public access training and participated in other training exercises multiple times a day. The focus is to help the handler and the service dog to form an unbreakable bond.
“If she has a seizure during the week, she wipes her scent on a rag because the body has a different scent when the body puts it off for a seizure. It teaches the dog to alert that way,” Mitchell said.
Bentley gained experience helping Mycayla when she had multiple seizures at the airport. Mitchell said Bentley helped his daughter four times before even making it home.
“This is the second full week he’s been home so he’s still been adapting to our house,” Mitchell said. “He’s doing good — he just became Mycayla’s shadow. He has to be very in tune with her to do his job correctly. Everywhere she goes, he’s there now.”
With the early success between Bentley and Mycayla, the Mitchells are feeling extra thankful for the support that helped get them this far.
“We really want to extend our thanks to anyone who was involved with making this achievable for my daughter,” Mitchell said. “Without it, this would not be possible.”